Milwaukee Bucks (29-32) vs Indiana Pacers (40-22)
6:00 CST, Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis Indiana
Line: Pacers by 6
Last night seemed to many to be the nail in the proverbial coffin for the Bucks playoffs hopes. Losing to the Washington Wizards in a game the Bucks desparately needed to win to keep pace with the Philadelphia 76ers did not exactly inspire confidence in the Milwaukee squad. ESPN, through a series of calculations factoring in strength of remaining schedule, record, and current positioning, set the Bucks chance of making the playoffs as just over 13%.
Yet time and again we have all but wrote this team off, only to watch the curious wheels of fate drag out the procession another few weeks. Besides tonights matchup, the Bucks have one of the easiest schedules in the league, with games against New Jersey, Toronto, a crucial game against Philly, and the season finale against a Boston team who will probably rest most of their starters. If the Bucks can pull off a win tonight, we might see some magic in the Bradley Center yet.
Hibbert put on a clinic Saturday night in Milwaukee, with 23 points and 14 rebounds. Hibbert has dominated the Bucks so far this season, averaging a double double in 2 previous matchups. His reign over the paint exposes a fatal flaw in this Milwaukee Bucks team; lack of a defensive big, ala Andrew Bogut. Not that this takes anything away from the exciting talent and abilities displayed by Hibbert, but opposing frontcourts all year have had their way with the Bucks (see Dwight Howard, Greg Monroe, Kevin Love, Zaza Pachulia). Not having the size to match up cannot be an excuse anymore; if the Bucks want to make the playoffs and make some noise, they need to make a statement against Hibbert tonight.
The midseason accquisition has matched up to the high expectations set when the Bucks traded away the All-Star Bogut for his services. In his last 5 games, Ellis has averaged almost 7 assists per game and has scored 30+ twice in this span. He has managed to do this all while sharing the spotlight and ball with Brandon Jennings, and providing a fearsome perimiter defense often underscored with dramatic steals leading to fast break dunks. Ellis seems to be ignited by pressure, and he’s in luck; the Bucks have no room for losses, and will all but have to win out to make the playoffs. Heres your chance to make a name for yourself, Monta. Shine.
The Bucks faint playoff hopes now lay in the hands of Philadelphia. The Sixers are inactive today and tomorrow, and will be in action on Saturday against this same Pacers team. Hopefully Indiana will have recovered from the beatdown we give them tonight in time to help us out against Philly.